Town Council expected to impose no further education budget cuts
NEW CANAAN — Please don’t make any further cuts to the education budget, parents told the Town Council and the message seemed to get across.
“An element that could be on the chopping block are extracurricular programs. In a high-performing district like ours they’re nearly equally important because they inspire,” Darcy Smith, a parent with two children in the school system, said.
A total of nine parents and two students — a senior from New Canaan High School and a seventh grader at Saxe Middle school — voiced their concerns to the Town Council at a budget public hearing March 3.
“A further compromise to these school projects may make it a bit more difficult for students after me,” Spencer Reeves, the high school student, said.
Town Council members floated the idea of shifting money from the operating into the capital budget but ultimately decided such would be disruptive to the schools’ planning for the upcoming fiscal year.
“We run the risk, if we cut $200,000 to reflect a potential savings in fuel, that (the Board of Education officials) will go back to their team and start looking at $200,000 worth of programs in case the natural gas doesn’t come on time,” Town Council Chairman John Engel said.
Members of the Board of Education, including Superintendent of Schools Bryan Luizzi and Chairperson Dionna Carlson, attended the March 3 public hearing.
As of press time Wednesday, Engel said the Town Council would make no further cuts to the schools’ budget.
When Board of Education members were still present two hours into the Town Council meeting, Engel asked if any council member had a desire to decrease the education budget “by $200,000 or any other number between now or Thursday.”
No members raised their hands, to the satisfaction of many Board of Education members.
If left untouched, the operating Board of Education budget, including health insurance costs, will come in at a 2.45 percent increase or $89,763,487 for Fiscal Year 2019 over the current fiscal year.
On March 8, the Board of Finance imposed a $900,000 cut on the Board of Education’s budget.. This brought it down from an originally total proposed 3.4 percent increase over the current fiscal year.
Luizzi said that the Board of Education would be preparing for the nearly $1 million cut the Board of Finance had made to their budget.
“The impression I left with tonight was that our work satisfied the diligence that (the Town Council has) done looking at all the numbers and they feel it’s an appropriate budget. We have to look at some program reductions because (the $900,000 cut) is a significant reduction,” Luizzi said.
Carlson, who stayed until the meeting concluded around 10 p.m., agreed.
“I’m happy they’re looking at not making any further reductions, so that’s why we’re continuing to watch. $900,000 is a huge cut — we came to the Board of Finance and told them that anything over $500,000 was going to impact programming and this cut will do that,” Carlson said.